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Senior-laden Huron Tigers chasing Sandusky Bay Conference crown
MORNING JOURNAL/TIM BIELIK The Huron Tigers have won seven straight games and are in search of their first SBC basketball title since 2005-06.
MORNING JOURNAL/JIM BOBEL Huron’s Colin McCready drops in two points in the second quarter against Edison earlier this season. The Tigers have won seven straight and are chasing their first SBC title since the 2005-06 season.
While they have enjoyed winning seasons in each of their first three years, there has been something just out of their reach: a Sandusky Bay Conference championship.
Huron last won an SBC championship in the 2005-06 season, but are out to end the drought after winning their last seven games, and 10 of their last 11, to vault into a first-place tie with Perkins, whom the Tigers beat 72-60 back on Jan. 19.
“Our number one goal is just to continue to get better and just play together,” James said. “This is a special group. I said it when we first met the team.
“I always thought that this was a special, special group that I’ve been around. They’re great kids, no matter what, that we were going to be fine because I knew what kind of good kids we had. If something happens where at the end of the year we’re sitting there still tied with Perkins or in first place, that’s great for them.”
Leading the way in scoring for the Tigers is senior forward Aaron Casey, averaging 11.1 points and a team-high seven rebounds per game. He had 17 points in the win over Perkins, which he said was a statement game and helped get them on their recent roll.
“After that win, we felt like we could play anybody because it was a big win,” Casey said. “We practiced all week for that game and I felt like after that, we could just coast.”
Senior guard Trae Graham, who missed last season due to a knee injury, believes that the difference with this year’s team is the chemistry and veteran leadership on the roster that wasn’t there in past years.
“Ever since we were freshmen, we came into the varsity program and we were really young, we won districts for the first time,” Graham said. “We were almost all sophomores and juniors. We had one senior.
“Then each year, we got older and older. And now it’s our senior year and we have real high expectations.”
While the win over Perkins may have been the biggest statement for the Tigers, James goes back to Huron’s 66-59 win at Elyria Catholic on Jan. 9 as the turning point.
In that win, Huron trailed by seven late in the third quarter before coming back to top the Panthers.
“We think that was a good Elyria Catholic team,” James said. “I just saw the confidence that they won a nice, big road game. I think that really spring-boarded us to what we’re going into.
“When we played Perkins, we were clicking on all cylinders. To win that game, it was a huge game for us. There was a lot on the line. I told the kids, ‘First place is on the line. It has nothing to do with me or anybody else. It has everything to do with you.’”
Senior Aaron Driftmeyer said the success the Tigers have had has been building for awhile. It was just a matter of getting everything to come together.
“We always used to show signs of playing like this, but we never could really keep it going for four quarters,” Driftmeyer said. “It was about the second half of the Elyria Catholic game when our coach said to just put it together. Ever since then, we’ve been playing pretty good.”
The Tigers did not get off to a great start, going 2-3 including 63-35 loss at Perkins on Dec. 15.
Since then, Huron has lost just one game as they stand at 12-4 overall and 9-1 in the SBC, tied with the Pirates atop the conference. Senior Colin McCready said the difference has been that the Tigers have been very unselfish with the ball.
“We’ve had really good point guard play and we’re just moving the ball a lot better,” he added. “In the beginning of the season, I think we just weren’t meshing. We started meshing better now that were later into the season.”
Senior Jake Justus feels the veteran leadership has been just as important for Huron as their ball movement on offense.
“All the experience we have really helps us in late-game situations, any other type of close games and I think it’s really come through for us a couple of times,” Justus added.
Huron controls its destiny in the SBC with four conference games left including tonight when it hosts Margaretta.
If the Tigers win out in the conference, they will at least have a shared title for the first time in seven years.
“The first thing we’ve got to control is (tonight) against Margaretta,” James said. “They’re getting better. They’ve won two in a row. We’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing and hopefully take care of Margaretta first.
“I like the fact that we control our own destiny for a change. In my four years, this is the first time we’ve been able to do that. So that’s what we’re just trying to do. And our first step to that is (tonight) against Margaretta.”
Huron defeated Margaretta 57-41 in their first meeting of the season in Margaretta on Dec. 21, 2012.
Last Updated: 1/31/2013 11:14:46 PM EST